Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: Frank Quimby
Jan. 28, 2005

Norton Stresses Cooperative, Pro-Western Initiatives for Water, Endangered Species

Interior Proposing to De-list Preble's Mouse


DENVER - President Bush has a bold, clear vision for meeting the water supply and endangered species challenges facing Western communities.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton delivered that key message to 300 members of the Colorado Water Congress here today, emphasizing the effectiveness of cooperative, locally driven partnerships in which the federal government works with stakeholders as catalyst and coordinator to resolve natural resource issues.

"Americans have always looked to the West with hope, and they should do so now in this new term of the administration," Norton said. "The president envisions preventing crises by innovative thinking and long-term planning; avoiding long years of litigation by cooperative agreements and replacing costly laws with common-sense legislation."

Norton also announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to propose removing the Preble's jumping mouse from the list of threatened and endangered species. The Service has been reviewing the status of the mouse after studies raised new questions about its status. The decision to propose de-listing was reached based on peer-reviewed science. Dr. Rob Roy Ramey of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science was the principal researcher.

This latest scientific information indicates the Preble's jumping mouse is not a separate subspecies. The petition to de-list was filed by Coloradoans for Water Conservation and Development and Wyoming. The Endangered Species Act provides for the delisting of species based on new genetic information.

"Reviews and revisions are an essential part of the scientific process, just as listening to those who might be affected by changes in species status is an essential part of the policymaking process, " Norton said. "We have done both."

Norton also highlighted other successful cooperative conservation and water supply improvements that have resulted from the president's vision and initiatives, including the Landowner Incentive Program, the Lower Colorado Multi-Species Conservation Plan, the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and the Water 2025 Initiative.

The Water 2025 Initiative seeks to prevent crises and conflict in the West by working with local communities and leveraging resources through matching grants. "This year we received 118 Water 2025 project proposals, representing almost $100 million in water system improvements in the West," Norton noted.

"The federal government can establish conditions that encourage cooperative efforts to succeed. We can establish policies that make prosperity possible, even during difficult years," Norton said.

On the continuing drought, the secretary warned that though projections for this year's runoff are optimistic, similar projections were made last year: "Those literally evaporated in the unusually warm spring. We dare not plan on favorable rains or snows. A large snowpack might still stand in the spring. Let us hope so. But one wet year will not make up for many dry ones. So even as we pray for rain, we must continue to plan for drought."

Concerning the Endangered Species Act, Norton said species should do more than survive. "They should thrive. They should recover and rebound in such numbers that they are removed from the endangered species list. A balance can be found between the needs of threatened species and the rights of citizens. Preventative conservation efforts can forestall years of litigation; cooperative solutions can be found without court battles; short-term crisis management can be replaced by long years of certainty. Thriving communities and thriving ecosystems should be able to coexist under the Endangered Species Act."

The sage grouse is another success of the president's vision of cooperative, locally-driven solutions. "The leaders of the 11 Western states with sage grouse populations came together in an unprecedented conservation effort to ensure that the sage grouse would not simply survive, but thrive," Norton said. "Everyone who was willing and able came to the table - ranchers, farmers and state and federal land managers. Tribes came together as did power companies and even Canadian provinces."

Much of the effort was focused on almost 8 million acres of private lands - more than 500 private landowners are working to preserve the sage grouse. Program managers asked for results but did not insist on methods. Their actions helped reverse a decades-long decline in sage grouse populations. Sage grouse numbers have stabilized. As a result of those conservation efforts, the sage grouse was not listed under the Endangered Species Act.





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